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Warehouse owner fined £266k for roofing fatality

19 Jun 13 A drinks firm has been fined more than a quarter of a million pounds after a workman fell through the roof of its warehouse. The contractor has to pay £30,000.

The warehouse where the incident happened
The warehouse where the incident happened

Robert (Bob) Rogers, 61, was working for Richard Parker, trading as Ovenden Engineering, which had been contracted by Allied Domecq Spirits & Wine Ltd to fix a leak in the roof and clean the gutters of their bonded warehouse in Dover, Kent.

Canterbury Crown Court was told that Mr Rogers was on the roof with his brother, Trevor, also an employee of Richard Parker, when he fell through one of the 80 skylights and hit the concrete floor six-metres below. He suffered multiple injuries and died later in hospital.

The incident, on 16 November 2010, was investigated by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted Richard Parker, of Folkestone, and Allied Domecq Spirits & Wine Ltd, trading as CG Hibbert Ltd, of West London, for safety breaches.

HSE identified failures by both defendants. The court heard there was no safety equipment in place for anyone working on the roof, which was itself fragile. This was despite Mr Parker’s employees working on the warehouse roof as often as every month. There were no crawling boards, scaffolding boards, harnesses or nets to protect workers from the risks.

As the owner of the warehouse, Allied Domecq had responsibility for the site and should have ensured that contractors planned their work and carried it out safely, and that proper control measures were in place.

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Richard Parker, t/a Ovenden Engineering, Radnor Street, Folkestone, Kent was yesterday fined £26,667 and ordered to pay £4,000 in costs after admitting breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Allied Domecq Spirits & Wine Ltd, t/a CG Hibbert, of Chancellors Road, West London, was fined £266,677 with costs of £10,752 after admitting breaching Section 3(1) of the same Act. Both defendants had entered guilty pleas at a hearing before Canterbury Magistrates in April.

After the sentencing hearing, HSE inspector Guy Widdowson said: "This is a tragic case in which a devoted husband, father and grandfather has lost his life whilst at work. It is sickening that such incidents happen despite the widespread industry knowledge of the risks of working at height and of working on fragile roofs with equally fragile skylights.

"Mr Rogers’ death was entirely preventable. Mr Parker should have provided his workers with suitable equipment to work on the roof. He failed to do so.

"Allied Domecq do not contract out their health and safety responsibilities just by contracting out a particular job. It was their duty to ensure there was a safe system of work before the job started and that their contractors followed agreed safe procedures. They too failed to do so."

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